PAWTUCKET â€“ There was no hiccups, nor was there any red flags from Matt Albersâ€™ relief appearance with the Pawtucket Red Sox on Sunday afternoon.
A clean and effortless sixth inning was what Albers delivered as the Pawtucket Red Sox cooked up two wins at McCoy Stadium. Daniel Nava capped off the suspended portion of the proceedings with a game-winning single in the 10th inning, lifting the PawSox to a 2-1 win past Buffalo.
Albersâ€™ 1-2-3 frame came in the regularly scheduled contest as Pawtucketâ€™s offense came alive in a 10-6 victory.
Albers, currently on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, needed just 13 pitches and 11 strikes to retire the heart of the Bisonsâ€™ lineup. The relief pitcher threw predominantly fastballs that according to the McCoy Stadium pitch speed feature generally resided in the 93 miles an hour range with a high of 94 mph reached.
According to PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler, the best pitch Albers featured was â€śa wipeout sliderâ€ť that was used to put away Buffaloâ€™s Zach Lutz for the last out of the sixth.
The plan is for Albers to pitch another inning for the PawSox Tuesday â€“ two days before he's eligible to come off the disabled list.
â€śHe threw the ball real well. Thatâ€™s why heâ€™s a big leaguer,â€ť said Beyeler about Albers, who scooted out of the clubhouse shortly after departing the mound. â€śHeâ€™s got a great arm and can pound the bottom of the zone.â€ť
Pawtucket starter Kris Johnson rebounded from a shaky top of the first to deliver five innings of two-run ball, a stat line that was noticeably better than the seven runs in 2 1/3 innings he was roughed up for against the same Buffalo outfit a week ago.
The Bisons struck for two runs in the first inning before Johnson settled down, retiring eight straight at one point. The lefty was able to worm his way out of a first-and-second pickle in the fifth on his way to finishing with two strikeouts and a walk.
â€śI only had two outings in spring training before getting sent up here,â€ť said Johnson, referencing the shoulder weakness that sidelined him for a few weeks. â€śIâ€™m just trying to extend my pitches, get up and down five or six times and extend my innings.â€ť
Navaâ€™s game-ending hit, a single to left field that scored Jose Iglesias, was his second hit in as many turns after being in a 0-for-16 drought. First baseman Lars Anderson also showed signs of life Sunday, snapping out of a 1-for-22 skid with two hits in the regularly scheduled contest.
â€śHeâ€™s just to get it going and get some better pitches and take some better swings,â€ť said Beyeler of Anderson. â€śHeâ€™s got to be a little more patient and quit hitting pitcherâ€™s pitches. Heâ€™ll get to it because a lot of it is confidence, too.â€ť
Starting with Navaâ€™s clutch knock, the PawSox spent most of Sunday delivering runs with two down. Drew Sutton and Anderson produced back-to-back run-scoring doubles in the third after two outs, helping Pawtucket take a 4-2 lead. Catcher Luis Exposito (double) and Iglesias (single) came through with two-out hits in the fifth that also resulted in runs. Exposito had himself a fine day offensively, collecting two doubles while reaching base four times. Nate Spears delivered his first home run, a solo shot that wrapped around the right field pole to begin the fourth.
The only true hiccup on the afternoon was the short-lived relief outing of Jason Rice, who was tagged for four runs in the seventh inning while recording just one out. On came Rich Hill, who continued his early-season success with 2 2/3 scoreless frames. Heâ€™s yet to allow a run in a game this season (12 total appearances and 17 1/3 frames, which includes seven outings and 8 2/3 innings from spring training). The southpaw also registered the first save of his pro career, which spans 247 major- and minor-league appearances.